With nearly a dozen scouts behind home plate, Stone Bridge senior JB Bukauskas was admittedly nervous Friday in the early stages of his spring debut against Madison. After striking out the first batter he faced, he allowed a double to deep center field, then a walk.
Stone Bridge Coach Sam Plank came to the mound to have a chat with his ace. He told him a joke to calm his nerves, and Bukauskas followed that with back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.
The North Carolina commit cruised the rest of the night, striking out 11 in 52 / 3 innings of a 3-0 Stone Bridge win in Ashburn.
“This game has been on my mind for a while because Madison is always a big game,” Bukauskas said. “That was the most fans we had at our game in a long time, and the scouts are always a little intimidating.”
The right-hander kept his composure just fine, throwing 79 pitches — at least two of which that were clocked at 97 mph. He was hitting 96 well into the sixth inning with temperatures in the low 50s.
Plank said he plans to keep Bukauskas at around 75-80 pitches per game until the Bulldogs get deeper into the season.
“The thing about JB — it could be 10-0 or 0-0 in the bottom of the seventh and he never changes,” Plank said. “He stays composed, and I don’t want anyone else out there in the moment.”
Bukauskas allowed three hits and walked two — much to the chagrin of Plank, who said the senior isn’t allowed to walk batters.
The Bulldogs (1-0) provided run support in the first inning when shortstop John Callahan led off the bottom of the frame with a single, was sacrificed to second, moved to third on Dave Mocabee’s single and scored on a passed ball.
In the third, Mocabee scored on a passed ball before Matthew Wheaton (2 for 2) singled in a run to account for the final margin.
“Whenever I go to the plate, I focus on clearing my mind,” Wheaton said. “I just try to focus on watching the ball come out of the pitcher’s hand and swing the bat.”
Old Dominion commit Devon Perez came in for relief after Bukauskas was removed in the sixth after allowing a two-out double. Perez picked up a strikeout to close the inning and end the threat.